Today, I went to the bookstore.
I asked for help to find a book of seemingly autobiographical essays because I wasn't sure how it was categorized at the store. The chummy helper lead me to the literary criticism section and searched earnestly for my title and author. I, too, searched and found myself racing him to find the title first. We came to a draw because the book wasn't there. He mentioned they definitely had it in stock but someone must've misplaced it. As he politely offered to special order a copy for me, some other title caught my eye and I couldn't afford to lose any more time. I declined. The potential this book held was all that mattered.
The helper left me to my own vices. I continued to my habit of sitting on the floor in front of sections that catch my interest. Book bag, down. Jacket, off. Phone, silenced. I picked up the book: The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms.
It's a book full of literary terms with definitions and examples. While this might seem incredibly boring and insignificant to some, this book blew the dust off of a whole cabinet in my mind. A cabinet containing some of the most fulfilling experiences I've ever had.
I opened the book and quickly flipped through the pages. Allegory. Anaphora (good word, anaphora). Metonymy. Litotes! Soliloquy!! Syntax!!!
I quizzed myself and tried to remember what several of the terms meant. I immediately recognized some and embarrassingly, could only vaguely remember how to pronounce others. My British Literature/AP English teacher in high school did a fantastic job in making sure everyone knew these terms. While I knew the terms incredibly well several years ago, I was far from being a super student. Let's just say I became very skilled at skimming the first pages of each chapter, last bits of each chapter, randomly picking out bits in the middle, then pay attention in class very closely. Not a high point in my academic career, obviously. (It prepared me for college though!) Even though my performance in these classes ranged from mediocre to awful, I knew how to apply these terms to literature. However, I struggled very much with communicating these connections (both in writing and verbally) but, I knew I understood the concepts and their application thoroughly in my mind.
Reviewing these terms again gave me such an electrifying feeling of morale. After going to undergrad, I hadn't really taken the time to read anything that wasn't non-fiction or children's books. If you read through my older blog posts, much of my undergrad experience felt like a huge rush of completing assignments, rehearsing, and pretty much having every minute of every day planned out. And it wasn't just me, it was everyone. If you don't practice a skill, it becomes harder and harder to do and remember accurately.
In undergrad, I didn't spend any time thinking about literary devices. Although, I did aim to use a variation of 'juxtaposition' in as many essays as possible and occasionally throw 'doppleganger' into casual conversations. It's funny because when people find out I'm a musician, they often lament, "Oh I played an instrument growing up, but I don't play anymore. I wish I did!" I feel like this is the musician's lament. I wish I would've kept up my literary skills and kept reading literature. Luckily, my master's course is nothing compared to my undergrad. It doesn't even compare. It's not that it's not challenging or demanding, but it's completely different. This gives me more opportunities to read here and there more frequently.
After exploring more terms, I realized for the first time in a very long while, I felt content and very full as a person. I imagine this is what Harry felt like drinking Butterbeer for the first time. These terms uncovered a part of me I like very much and missed very much. After relearning the definitions of some of these terms, I spent a long time reading and completely immersing myself in a new chapter of the current fiction book I'm reading. I found more symbolism, deeper character development, and freshly appreciated the diction.
As many recent graduates and soon-to-be-recent graduates feel, the future seems uncertain and somewhat mysterious. I find this often leaves me feeling anticipation, anxiety, and suspense. I can usually escape this by immersing myself in reading material and taking notes for my master's project, but there is something about special about fiction I've missed these past 4 1/2 years.
Today, and perhaps only for today, I am content with myself and what I've learned so far in life. I have something I find highly valuable, enriching, and enjoyable. Something that makes me feel like I am experiencing life more thoroughly and completely, and essentially gives more meaning to me and my experiences. Literary terms.
For the record, after spending a little more time exploring surrounding titles, I found the book I was originally looking to purchase hidden behind another book. Lucky me!